Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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The Care and Feeding of Sacred Fires

When the thede (tribe) of witches foregathers, as we did recently at this year's Midwest Grand Sabbat, we kindle (wood on wood, in the old way) the traditional Fire of Gathering.

The Fire burns continuously throughout the time of assembly. Everyone tends it; offerings are made to it daily. It roars at the very heart of the sabbat itself, and on our final morning together it is ritually extinguished. People take the ashes home with them when they leave.

Anyone who grows up in a traditional culture knows how to behave around a sacred fire—how it differs from a household fire, for instance—and doesn't have to be taught What You Do and What You Don't. For those of us who (alas) did not grow up in such a culture, how then does one impart these rules, the Does and Don'ts of sacred Fires, in a manner that doesn't devolve into learning boring lists of regulations?

Well, my friend and colleague Chris Moore came up with the perfect way to do it: you give people a metaphor.

The Sacred Fire is an honored guest among us, and proper behavior toward it means that you treat it as such. We welcome it, feed it well, and care for its needs, just as you would do when someone that you love comes to visit.


Hospitality being one of the prime pagan virtues, this is something everyone can understand without having to memorize tedious lists of What To and What Not To.

Giving people a metaphor and letting them think actively for themselves seems to me exactly the way best to become the people that we need to be: proactive, mature, self-governing.

Much better than the mere rattling-off of lists.






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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Gerald Home
    Gerald Home Thursday, 30 July 2015

    Awesome way to present the Sacred Fire. I was taught that the Sacred Fire is an elder spirit that witnesses what we do.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Friday, 31 July 2015

    Ah, hence the "Fire of Witness." Oh, that's resonant, Gerald: thank you.

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